Expanding your podcast’s reach is all about maximising your use of as many different marketing channels as possible. Your podcast primarily resides on directory services such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify, but your ability to grow your audience will be greatly enhanced by giving it a more general presence online via a website.
Not only will this provide a home for detailed information about the podcast, it will also aid with marketing and enable you to keep your listeners updated with additional news. You could even use a website to expand your activities beyond the podcast, such as selling your fans merchandise or services, or promoting events.
What information should you show?
There are many ways to build a website depending on your needs and skill levels, but the first question you need to ask is what information you want to include. Is it just a general overview of the podcast, with biographies of the hosts? Or will it include more sophisticated content, such as regular news updates and a shop?
Here are some suggestions for information you may want to include on your podcast website:
- Series synopsis or description
- Links to listings on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other services
- Audio players (more on that later)
- Social media links
- Presenter biographies
- News updates about the podcast and presenters
- Merchandise shop
- Contact information
- Email newsletter sign-up
- Media packs and advertising information
Website hosting options
Once you’ve chosen the information you want on your website, and assessed your own website-building abilities, you can start to consider the hosting service to use. Some podcast hosting services, such as Buzzsprout and Libsyn, include a basic page hosted on their own platform as part of their packages. While this will be podcast-focused, it won’t be so flexible if you want to add lots of custom content. But it can form a great base level, with a bit more information than you’ll find on a podcast directory on its own.
The next step up is a general website which your podcast is embedded into. There are services designed specifically to make building a podcast website easy, such as Podcastpage. Alternatively, you could turn to user-friendly website builders such as Wix or Squarespace. These provide wizard-based design, with limited customisability. Wix offers templates for a variety of podcast types, as does Squarespace.
The range of design choices is limited with Wix, however. Squarespace has a few more options, based around making choices about subject areas, goals and your stage of business development. Either way, you are likely to end up with a nice-looking but generic site.
For many podcasts, this will be enough; go back to the list of elements you want to include, and cross-reference it with the capabilities of platforms like Squarespace. If all you need is a place to showcase subscription links, new episodes and presenter bios, this may well fit the bill. If you want something more bespoke and personal, however, you will need a more powerful platform than these wizard-based systems.
A tale of two WordPresses
Greater flexibility is available if you move up to WordPress, which is estimated to run around 40% of the websites on the internet. There are two versions of this – wordpress.com and wordpress.org. The former is a hosted option, where WordPress itself supplies the webserver and software, managing the site for you. This isn’t that different to Wix or Squarespace. You can choose a template design and then add your content in a similar fashion. But the popularity of WordPress means that the range of templates is huge. You can also extend functionality with plug-ins, although the options are more limited for wordpress.com.
Ultimate flexibility comes from wordpress.org. This is an open-source website platform which uses the same underlying software as wordpress.com, but doesn’t include any hosting services. There are various hosting providers that are optimised for running WordPress sites, but there will still be a considerable step up in the knowledge required to run this kind of site. You also need to take care of security, updates and site health. Most hosting packages won’t require you to install the software manually, however. Instead, the hosting provider will probably provide the ability to install WordPress with a couple of clicks.
But after that, there is plenty of work to do. You can probably avoid having to perform any HTML coding, but you will need to configure your site. WordPress makes your life easier by separating the design of your website and the content it contains. It builds your pages dynamically on request by combining a design template with a database of text and images when users visit. That design template is called a ‘Theme’, and it’s the same system whether you use wordpress.com or wordpress.org.
In the early days of web design, each page had to be hand-coded and if you wanted to change the look, you would need to update every single page individually. But with a platform like WordPress, the content and design are separated. This means you can change the Theme of your site without affecting the content. It also means that extra content can be added without the need for new design work.
Choosing a URL/domain name
If you use a service like Squarespace, Wix or wordpress.com, you could set your site up without having to purchase your own website address or domain name - but your URL will then include the name of your hosting company, which won’t look very professional. A custom domain name related to your podcast title will make your website much easier to find. Domains can be as cheap as £1 for the first year from some suppliers, but will then cost from around £8 annually - up to £240 for the most expensive. Given that the web has been around for about 30 years, however, the most obvious domain names may already be taken, so you may need to think creatively to find the right one that fits your brand.
Choosing a WordPress Theme
If you have a modicum of web design ability, you can set up a site with wordpress.com quite easily. After setting up an account, choose a Theme you like and start to customise the look. This will involve adding the title, a description and some graphics - ideally based on the imagery, colour scheme and design language of your podcast artwork and wider branding. Each Theme provides different options; while there are basic ones with just a few choices to make, some can be really complicated, like mini design environments in their own right.
Quite a lot of decent themes for WordPress are entirely free, but even more choice is available if you are willing to pay a little for a Premium theme, which will usually cost less than $100 (£81). This should also mean you can access some support if you have any questions about or problems with the theme. You can even choose a theme that has been specifically designed for podcasts. For example, Sonaar Music has a selection on offer, and Envato Market has a huge choice from as little as $19 (£15).
You should check out the Live Previews before parting with any cash, but also bear in mind that getting a theme to look exactly like the Preview may take some configuration, which in turn may require some skill. You can get a professional to help you configure your WordPress site, and even build you a custom Theme. While this may be cheaper than bespoke web design used to be, it’s still going to be quite costly. Note that only some WordPress themes are available to use with the .com hosted service, but all can be used with .org.
Expanding capabilities and adding content
Once you’ve built your basic site, you will want to embed your podcast episodes within it. Popular podcasting host platforms such as Buzzsprout offer an embed code for an audio player, in a similar fashion to YouTube. You can usually embed a single episode, a specific playlist, or a player that will automatically be updated with a list including the latest episode. This code can be copied and pasted into a website page (which may need to be in ‘code source view’), just as you would embed a YouTube video.
If you chose wordpress.org as your platform, you could consider expanding the capabilities of your website with plugins. There is a vast variety of plugin options provided by WordPress, so we will focus on the ones that are podcasting-specific. It’s actually possible to use your WordPress site as your podcast host using the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin, which can work on its own but is also designed to operate in tandem with the Castos podcast hosting platform. If you want to set up merchandise on your site, consider the Woo Commerce plugin, although that may dictate the theme you can use.
If you really want the most amazing website available, you may need to employ a WordPress developer for the initial setup, particularly when deploying a shop. If you’re not very experienced, it is recommended to budget for this. But once you have your website set up, it can become an important hub to help you provide information beyond the podcast itself and increase your audience engagement.